Historically Black school to remain open on Alabama coast

March 28, 2022 GMT

MOBILE, Ala. (AP) — A more than 120-year-old, historically Black parochial school where nuns and priests supported the civil rights movement won’t close after all following a fundraising drive and new commitments by graduates and supporters, the Catholic Church said Monday.

While Heart of Mary Catholic School was in danger of shutting down because of declining enrollment and precarious finances, the Archdiocese of Mobile said in a statement it would remain open.

New requests from parents point to increased enrollment, and some alumni have agreed to take more responsibility with the school, it said.

“A new corporation and a new governing board are in the process of being formed independent of the Archdiocese of Mobile. This new board will take responsibility for the continued operation and administration of the school,” the statement said.

An online fundraising campaign took in more than $450,000 to support the school, which was at risk of shutting down at the end of the school year. Its alumni include former U.S. Labor Secretary Alexis Herman and retired Maj. Gen. Gary Cooper, the first Black person to command a Marine combat infantry company in Vietnam.

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Heart of Mary Catholic School has classes from early childhood education through middle school, according to its website, and it offers scholarships for needy students.

Established in 1901, when Alabama adopted a white supremacist Constitution to disenfranchise Blacks and poor white, the school and its parish became an important meeting place for Black people during the civil rights era. Priests and nuns joined in marches and other demonstrations in support of the community.